The magnitude 6.8 quake late Friday shook Elazig province, about 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara, and was followed by 401 aftershocks, 14 of which had magnitudes over 4, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD).
Eighteen people were killed in Elazig and four more in the neighboring province of Malatya, AFAD said, adding 1,243 others were injured and in hospitals in the region. It said authorities were still carrying out rescue efforts at three sites in Elazig.
Turkish broadcasters showed footage of rescuers pulling people out from under the debris, some around 19 hours after the quake.
Speaking in Elazig, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said an estimated 22 people were still trapped under debris. AFAD later said 42 people had been rescued so far.
Speaking alongside Soylu, Health Minster Fahrettin Koca said 128 wounded people were receiving treatment and that 34 of those were in intensive care, but not in critical conditions. He said additional medical centers would be set up if necessary.
Rescue teams worked through the night with their hands, drills and mechanical diggers to remove bricks and plaster from collapsed buildings in Elazig, where the overnight temperature dipped to -8 degrees Celsius.
“Our houses collapsed … we cannot go inside them,” said a 32-year-old man from the town of Sivrice, epicenter of the quake which struck shortly before 9 p.m. (1800 GMT).
“In our village some people lost their lives. I hope God will help us,” said the man, who gave only his first name, Sinasi. “Our animals died. Our families gathered around the fire to spend the night, covered with blankets,” Sinasi said as he and a relative tried to warm themselves by a small fire.
President Tayyip Erdogan canceled his plans in Istanbul on Saturday and went to Elazig to inspect the rescue efforts. He also attended a funeral for a woman and her son killed in the quake, which he described as a “test” for Turkey.
We are doing everything we can as the state and nation, and we will continue to do so. Our efforts at all rescue sites will continue,” he said at the funeral, adding state house developer TOKI would make sure no one was left “hungry or in the open.”